Nightingale & Violin Duet – 90 Years Since 1st Outside Broadcast

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90 years ago today (19th May), the BBC transmitted its very first outside broadcast and the stars of the show were cellist Beatrice Harrison accompanied by a very tuneful nightingale. To celebrate the anniversary, Senior Lecturer in radio Dylan Roys and I accepted the challenge from Reverend Mark Holden (Wragby parishes) to recreate the historic event in Lincolnshire.

Violinist Janet Welsh kindly agreed to join us in this quest and we headed off to Whisby Nature Reserve to recruit a willing nightingale to our band. As dusk fell, Graham Hopwood, our expert guide and one of Whisby’s wardens, attuned our ears to the song of the nightingale amongst the many other voices of blackcap, whitethroat and robin.

With our avian talent spotted and in full song, Janet began to play the tune Londonderry Air, just as Beatrice Harrison had done 90 years earlier. Dylan and I captured the beautiful duet with our modern hand-held recorders as trains whizzed by and jumbo jets cruised overhead.

The recordings reflect the massive changes in our sonic landscape since 1924. Graham chatted to us about the dwindling numbers of nightingales visiting Britain due to changes in their landscape and habitat too. However, the nightingale’s song remains as beautiful now as it did then.

Dylan Roys’s radio piece documenting the recording will be broadcast on May 19th on Siren FM. Listen here:

Listen to a clip of the recording here.

The piece was broadcast on William Wright’s BBC Radio Lincolnshire show on the 19th May 2014. Exactly 90 years after the original broadcast. Hear it here:

Huge thanks to Janet and Graham for helping to make this happen.

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About David McSherry

Senior Lecturer in Audio Production